Our strategy in approaching Peruvians with the gospel has been referred to as “friendship evangelism”. We don’t want to force ourselves into someone’s life to try and change it drastically with no previous relationship, no established trust, no perceived level of personal care for the individual. Thus, it is of vital importance to us that we make good friends here, not just to feel at home, but to have a foot in the door of the community or family unit as trustworthy, should they be interested in the Bible study that they already know we are willing to begin. It is the logical process considering the factors of life in this culture, but the execution has proved somewhat difficult and slow.
A couple of months ago, I described the tedious process of making friends with neighbors. Knowing just how long that could have taken, I think you all must have been praying, because I ended up with an opportunity to take a major shortcut with my friend Luzmila.
I was hosting Megan’s baby shower and found out that it was perfectly acceptable to invite anyone I wanted, regardless of their relationship with Megan. So I stopped by and asked Luzmila (the woman who runs a small shop on our street, from whom we buy all our Cokes) to attend. She accepted immediately and said she would bring her daughter as well. There was still a chance that she was just being polite and didn’t plan on actually coming, so I was thrilled when Luzmila, her daughter, and her 9 month old grandson showed up at the door. I was also glad to find out that her daughter is just about my age, so I now have a fellow young mom friend in the neighborhood. At the end of it all, they chatted freely throughout the evening, stayed later than everyone else, and even called another daughter to come and meet us.
So, in the span of one evening, we made the switch to friends. Now we chat when we pass on the street, talking about how long it’s been since we talked or how the flags look for the holiday or how it was so strange that it rained the other day. She helped me run my trash to the garbage truck one day when I got out the door too late. Upon meeting Aaron and learning that he was staying with us, she told him, “You know Larissa? Well, then, we’re friends already.” I have greeted her daughter from the roof when I saw her walking by with her baby, taking a moment to connect with her again.
It is amazing how different this neighborhood feels with just knowing one family better. We had already moved past the “strange face” stage to a more “familiar face but still not sure about you” stage. I’m excited to follow through on this new one and see what other connections can be made now that we have Luzmila’s stamp of approval. Despite feeling successful thus far, there is a good deal of unknown ground ahead of us, but knowing that the first step has been accomplished makes it feel much more feasible in the near future. I look forward to meals together, play dates with the kids at the park down the street, maybe meeting at the market or hosting the neighborhood women to learn a new recipe. I anticipate the day that we know most of the people who live around us and have days full of time with friends, especially those involved in Bible studies or leading a church in their home. One step at a time, but we’re on our way.